Numbness and tingling – what’s wrong with your arm or leg?

When you wake up, your hand is heavy, stiff and stiff, and you can’t stretch your fingers half way. You almost have to lift the hand with the other hand to get some life into it. However, after shaking, the hand starts to bleed.

The medical profession also knows the phenomenon as “Saturday night palsy”, because the pain often strikes after partying.

– A person who has consumed alcohol tends to sleep in a bad position and then the spinal nerve can be pinched, says the general practitioner and occupational health doctor Toni Vänni.

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Almost any part of the body can go numb. Usually, however, hands, feet or face.

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The compression condition especially damages the superficial nerves, which do not have much soft tissue covering them for protection.

That’s why the legs feel numb, for example, if you are squatting or kneeling for a long time. Harmless numbness and not being able to bend the leg can occur, for example, when picking berries.

Numbness is innocent if it helps when you move or work on something.

The nature of the symptom reveals a lot

Numbness is a person’s own assessment, just like pain. There is no meter to measure numbness or its intensity. Usually people describe the condition as numbness and some kind of feeling of coolness, tingling and burning.

– Numbness in diseases of the peripheral nervous system can be accompanied by weakness or a squeezing sensation, muscle fatigue, muscle cramps and a fluttering in the eyes. Sometimes even ataxia may appear,

which is mainly a central nervous system symptom. Then the walk becomes clumsy and the legs travel as if on wide tracks.

Based on the symptoms, it is quite possible to conclude whether it is a disease of the peripheral nervous system, damage to the nerve plexus or damage to just one nerve.

– If the back is painful and there is a small bulge, then the reason for the numbness is very clear. In the magnetic image of the back, nerve compressions and disc slips are clearly visible.

Numbness warns a diabetic

High blood sugar is poison for the nerves. It accumulates in the nerves and wreaks havoc in the small blood vessels.

If blood sugar fluctuates a lot, polyneuropathy can develop. In practice, it means that the feet lose feeling, the bladder empties poorly or there is no difference between cold and hot water.

– A lack of sensation may lead to stepping on a piece of glass or even breaking your leg and not noticing it at all. Leg ulcers are painless and can lead to severe infections. Numbness is, however, a symptom of a long-standing disease, Vänni states.

In type 2 diabetes, however, various sensory deficits are sometimes detected already at the diagnosis stage, because the disease can be quite subtle for a long time.

Sensory disturbances and numbness can indicate that the treatment balance of diabetes is faltering.

Then you should talk to a doctor.

Vibration disease comes from the craft

Sometimes numbness can be related to work. Vibration disease is a work-related illness that can also be accompanied by white fingers.

It is especially common among, for example, carpenters, construction workers, machine repairmen and vehicle assemblers. In the past, it was a type of disease among loggers, but nowadays chainsaws have developed and the job description has changed.

– Continuous vibration damages nerves and blood vessels. Blood vessels begin to constrict and nervous system dysregulation occurs. In this case, the compression force weakens and the hands feel clumsy.

One common neurotoxin is alcohol.

In alcoholics, various nervous symptoms, such as numbness and jerky walking, are common.

For sudden symptoms, see a doctor immediately

As a rule of thumb, if the spots start to go numb unexpectedly and strongly, you should see a doctor the same day. Likewise, if the symptom worries you.

– If you have leaned on your elbow a lot, slept on your hand or raked the weekend, the trouble is likely to be transient and harmless. It’s a different situation if you wake up in the morning with one side of your face or the whole arm numb and the symptom doesn’t go away.

If the numbness of the face and limbs is accompanied by other symptoms, such as headache, neck pain, blurred vision or symptoms of paralysis, it may be a cerebral circulation disorder. The symptoms vary slightly depending on where the cerebrovascular disorder is. In this case, you must call 112 immediately.


  1. IN THE SYMPTOM GROUP OF THE CARPAL CANAL the nerve is easily compressed while traveling in the tunnel-like canal. In particular, the thumb and index and middle fingers become numb in this case. Even a sore hand is not unusual. If the nerve is compressed for a long time, the compression force and fine motor skills of the hand may be affected. In severe symptoms, the nerve can be released by surgery. Physiotherapy or Kalevala limb repair can also be helpful.
  2. TOS SYMPTOM GROUP occurs if there is muscle tension and tightness in the area of ​​the neck, clavicle or pectoralis minor. Nerves and blood vessels get pinched or stretched. The symptom is pain and numbness in the neck, shoulders and arms, and they intensify if you have to hold your hands up, such as when hanging laundry or changing a light bulb. It is worth trying physical therapy and relaxing the neck and shoulder area. If necessary, you can use painkillers or prescription muscle relaxants.
  3. PANIC DISORDER often involves overbreathing, i.e. hyperventilation. In this case, the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen is disturbed: the person receives too much oxygen and, correspondingly, too much carbon dioxide, which stimulates breathing, leaves the body. Then there may be tingling, numbness and unpleasant sensations in the limbs. Panic disorder can be helped by various forms of therapy and medication.
  4. FACIAL PARALYSIS should be suspected when the face is missing. When the function of one facial nerve is disturbed, smiling is not possible or one side of the face hangs. The facial nerve travels in a narrow bony canal, so even the slightest irritation can cause it to “get out of control.” Cortisone relieves the symptoms. Sometimes facial palsy gets better on its own time.

Expert: Toni Vänni, general practitioner, occupational health physician, Terveystalo.

This article has appeared in Hyvä tervey magazine. As a subscriber, you can read all issues free of charge from the service

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